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Ex-Vicom staff jailed for taking bribes from workshops

Ex-Vicom staff jailed for taking bribes from workshops
PHOTO: 123rf

SINGAPORE — A service adviser at vehicle inspection company Vicom received bribes totalling $26,820 from several people, including directors of motor vehicle repair workshops, between 2016 and 2020.

In return, Susan Seah Soh Eng lodged accident reports for workshop customers without them or their vehicles being physically present at Vicom.

On Tuesday (Aug 22), the 59-year-old was sentenced to 20 weeks' jail and fined $4,000 after she pleaded guilty to offences that include multiple counts of graft. She was also ordered to pay a penalty of $8,270.

If she cannot pay the fine and penalty, Seah will have to spend an additional 10 weeks behind bars.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Vicom said that Seah was dismissed from service in February 2020.

Its spokesman, Grace Wu, added: "Vicom has zero tolerance for fraud and corruption. We expect our employees to exercise a high standard of professionalism and integrity."

Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Kit Yu told the court that Seah had solicited the bribes in most instances and the offences involved five motor repair workshops.

DPP Leong said that her offences had compromised Vicom's role as an independent damage assessment centre for motor insurance claims.

"Vicom had not suffered any actual loss as a result of the accused's offending acts. Nonetheless, those acts had caused Vicom to breach its appointment agreements with the motor insurers and had placed Vicom at risk of having its appointment as an approved reporting centre (ARC) being terminated by such insurers," he added.

Motorists involved in an accident are required to go to an ARC or authorised workshop, along with their vehicles, to make an accident report.

This ensures that the damage is assessed by an independent body, and contains the claims cost for motor insurers. Vicom is one such ARC appointed by several motor insurers in Singapore.

According to court documents, some of the bribes were in the form of loans. Two people who bribed Seah were dealt with in court on July 13.

Miracle Workz director Edrian Lim Cheng Kwee, then 41, was sentenced to four weeks' jail, while CYS Automobile Services director Lim Ah Wah, then 63, was fined $1,500.

The cases involving AMA Automotive director Wee Tien Lung, 39; Ling Siew Ing, 55, the wife of the owner of Long Sheng Motor Service; and Toh Painting and Service director Toh Lay Chwee, 64, are pending.

Some time before April 2016, Seah agreed with a Miracle Workz employee to lodge accident reports for the workshop's customers without them or their vehicles being present at Vicom.

A workshop employee would provide Seah with details such as the customers' particulars, information about the accidents, and pictures of the damaged vehicles.

The DPP said: "In some cases, the customers might decide to not take their vehicles back to Miracle (Workz), but to other motor vehicle repair workshops instead."

Seah would edit the pictures if they showed that the vehicles were in places other than Vicom. This was done to make it look as though the pictures were taken at Vicom.

In other instances, she would get the workshop employee to retake the photos to avoid suspicion.

Seah asked Edrian Lim if she could be paid for helping them. He instructed his staff to pay her $30 for each report lodged.

Between January 2017 and May 2019, the employee passed her $2,490 in bribes.

Similarly, Seah helped Lim Ah Wah's customers file accident reports. In 2018, she corruptly obtained a loan of $2,000 from him. She has since fully repaid it.

Court documents stated that Seah committed similar crimes linked to the other alleged offenders.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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